America is in the midst of changing the response to the opioid epidemic, which claims 40,000 lives annually. Now, civil lawsuits are being directed at drugmakers and distributors and could result in billions of dollars in damage.
State and local governments are asking Walmart, Purdue Pharma and Rite-Aid to pay for the cost of treating opioid users. In the process, documents may come to light showing what these companies knew about the risks of addiction to pain medications.
Starting in the 1990s, the health care industry was pushed to treat pain more effectively. In response, Purdue Pharma came out with a long-acting opioid known as Oxycontin. The new drug was aggressively sold to doctors as a safe solution for long-term relief.
The state and local government lawsuits allege that pharmacies, suppliers and drugmakers flooded the market with prescription pain pills. Critics believe that these companies purposely misled physicians and the public regarding the associated dangers. According to NPR, pharmacies and distributors, such as Walgreens, CVS and Walmart, knew they were selling far too many pills than demand should account for.
OxyContin (oxycodone) is a narcotic, or opioid pain medication. OxyContin comes in extended-release tablets to provide all-day pain relief and are not meant for daily use.
Since 1999, the addiction issue has spread to millions of Americans. The federal government says 130 people die each day as the result of opioid overdoses, both prescription and non-prescription.
The sheer volume has overwhelmed law enforcement, rehab and related sectors. Therefore, state and local governments, cities and tribes are saying they want suppliers and distribution to pay the tab..
This case resembles the tobacco lawsuits in the 1990s. So far, cigarette-makers have paid $100 billion to Americans related to illness and public health costs associated with smoking. Some of this money was channeled to help smokers quit.
Local and state officials want that kind of money to battle the current epidemic of opioid abuse. It’s certain that billions of dollars could create more detox beds, drug rehab programs and better training for police and other.
There’s no word yet whether the wave of lawsuits will expand to include wrongful death claims to help the families who’ve lost loved ones to Opioid addiction. It’s less certain what damage caps might be if it does. Some legislators have suggested a one-size-fits-all to wrongful death claims that could limit the amount families would be able to recover.
“A precise mathematical formula might simplify matters and make wrongful death damages more uniform on a nationwide basis, but would hardly do justice to the surviving spouse. It’s nearly impossible to assign a monetary amount to the grief, loss and anguish that is experienced when a loved one dies. This task is best left to the jurors, who are in a position to empathize with the pain caused by the premature loss of a spouse. Mathematical formulas, neat and clean as they may be, are simply insufficient,” according to a blog post by Ankin Law Office LLC.